Social Media Customer Service: Tips and Tools to Do it Right
Many businesses moved online in 2020 and are struggling to provide quality social media customer service. Don't be one of them.
Many businesses moved online in 2020 and are struggling to provide quality social media customer service. Don't be one of them.
Social media customer service is the practice of using social tools to resolve customer questions or concerns. Social customer support is highly effective because it allows customers to reach your team on the platforms they already use.
Bonus: Get a free, easy-to-use Customer Service Report Template that helps you track and calculate your monthly customer service efforts all in one place.
Why should you incorporate social media customer service solutions into your business plan? It’s simple: People want brands to offer social media customer support.
Your customer service team can likely address client questions faster and in more detail than your social marketing team can. The social media and customer service stats above show a customer service Twitter account is more likely to respond within 15 minutes.
That’s why it can be a good idea for brands to use a separate social account to offer social media customer service solutions. For example, Hootsuite uses @Hootsuite_Help, which is run by the support team.
Source: @Hootsuite_Help on Twitter
This helps filter out support and service issues from your primary channel. It also ensures you assign the right teams to monitor the right types of incoming public messages.
If you create a dedicated social channel for customer support, include that handle in your brand’s other social profile bios. This lets people know where to reach out for support-related requests.
People will still use your main social marketing handles to contact you with support and service issues. They might simply use the brand handle they already know, rather than looking at your main profile to check for a support account.
If a service request comes into your main social channel, pass it along to the right team and respond from your support account.
Of course, many people will also post messages about your business online without tagging any of your social accounts. Some of these posts might warrant a customer service response.
That means you can’t wait to be tagged in social media customer support requests. You need to monitor conversations about your brand. Then you can respond to customers who have a service issue—even if they didn’t reach out to you.
Social customer support has different challenges and opportunities from social marketing. But it’s no less important to have social media guidelines in place.
These should align with your company values and with the social marketing team.
Your brand guidelines for social customer support should cover things such as:
If customers regularly have the same questions, that’s a clue you need to provide some self-service information resources.
Your social media customer service channels are great places to share educational content. For example, you could create a how-to video or best practices blog post. It’s all about helping customers learn how to get the most from your products.
If you offer an online service, you could also post updates about any known service issues.
These resources will help reduce the number of support requests that come in. They’re also an easy place to refer people with simple support questions.
Pinned posts and Instagram Stories highlights are great places to provide self-help resources.
Think broadly about what qualifies as a customer service issue. How companies use social media for customer service varies widely. It doesn’t have to be just about resolving problems and complaints.
Customer service can include anything that makes your customers feel more connected to your brand. It should make them more comfortable buying, using, and recommending your products.
Customers don’t expect all companies to offer the same levels of customer service on social media.
A recent study found that customers who pay more for their services expect a higher level of social customer care. Another study found that higher-revenue airlines offer more empathetic customer care on Twitter.
Of course, how companies use social media for customer service will vary based on the size of the available team.
The most important thing is to set customer expectations appropriately. Make it clear when your service team is available, and how long it might take you to respond. If there are other resources they can use to get answers faster, let them know.
This may sound obvious, but it’s a rule not all companies follow. As you saw in the social media customer service stats above, the majority of brands respond to comments on Facebook and Instagram, but not all.
People asking questions of your brand on social media may or may not be your customers (yet). Answering all questions on social channels shows that you have responsive customer service. This proves to potential customers that you care about your clients’ needs.
A potential customer who reaches out for support and doesn’t get it will likely move on to your competition instead.
Simply responding is not enough. When customers reach out to brands on social, they expect a fast, friendly response.
Your Facebook Page reveals right upfront whether you respond quickly to customer messages. If you respond to 90% of messages and have a response time of 15 minutes or less, you’ll get a Very Responsive to Messages badge.
Your social customer service may not be available 24/7, and that’s okay. You just need to set customer expectations appropriately.
Make your social customer service hours of availability clear. Let customers know when you’re going offline. Provide links to self-help solutions. Direct them how to reach other customer service channels (like your call center) in the meantime.
On Facebook, use Away Messaging to provide an automated response when your social customer support team is offline. Messages received during your Away times don’t count towards your Very Responsive status.
You can also use Instant Replies on Facebook to send a canned response to all initial messages. This is especially useful during busier-than-normal times. You can set customer expectations in terms of when you’ll be able to reply personally.
You can even use Facebook’s customization options to include the person’s first name and/or last name to make the reply more personal.
You can find step-by-step instructions on how to set up both Away Messaging and Instant Replies in our Facebook Messenger guide.
Instagram has a similar feature called Quick Replies. You can pre-write answers to common questions so you can reply quickly with just a couple of taps.
Chatbots are a great way to offer basic social customer service 24/7. Always-on capability was the top benefit of AI-powered chatbots in a survey of global banking and insurance customers.
Chatbots can give customers the information they want immediately. That’s an important resource when your team is offline. Bots tend to work best for simple questions that you get often.
For your social customer care to be effective, you’ve got to use the channels where your audience already spends their time.
Monitor social platforms to see where people are already talking about your company online. This will give you a good sense of what channels to prioritize for your social media customer service.
Consumer Reports found people are most likely to complain on the platforms where they are most active. Of consumers who posted complaints on social media, 84% used Facebook and 26% used Twitter.
Customers may contact you on social with questions or requests that would be better addressed through a private channel. For instance, you might need confidential information like a booking number or account name.
On Facebook, you can respond to a public comment with a private message. This takes the conversation to Facebook Messenger, where you can interact more confidentially. Below the customer’s comment, just click Message to respond privately.
Once you send your message, a note will appear under the comment that says “Page responded privately.” This shows other users that you addressed the request, even though your response is not visible.
If you respond by DM on Instagram or Twitter, make sure to add a comment so the customer knows to check their DMs. Others can then also see you reached out privately to resolve the issue.
Let’s take a look at how companies use social media for customer service with some real-world examples.
Starbucks knows that not all social posts that mention a brand will tag the brand account. That’s why they use social listening to monitor relevant brand keywords. They reach out with a customer service response when warranted.
In this case, a customer Tweeted into the void wondering if Starbucks delivers. The social team promptly responded with details on how to order from Uber Eats.
Starbucks Delivers! Just download the Uber Eats app or visit https://t.co/FT9Kh0PvhK for availability.
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) January 31, 2021
Social media is often a place where people come to complain about brands or share negative experiences. But not Zappos. A surprising number of Twitter users call Zappos out for their unexpected levels of customer service.
Aww shucks! You're making us blush! Thank you very much for the kind words! On behalf of all of us here at Zappos, you're very welcome! Please don't hesitate to let us know if you have any questions, concerns, or comments that you would like us to pass along. 😊
— Zappos.com (@Zappos) January 27, 2021
Their secret is a fast and effective response to all customer queries. Plus, a tone that strikes the right balance between friendliness and practicality.
They are a dark gray that's a bit warmer in color, as opposed to a cool gray. The lighting in our studio seems to have made them appear extra warm, almost brown. Sorry for the confusion!
— Zappos.com (@Zappos) January 26, 2021
As we mentioned above, self-service social media customer service options can be a good way to address common questions. They can also help support your customers even when your support team is not available.
Lush created an Instagram Stories Highlight called “Ways to Shop.” It answers common questions about things like:
Some of the highlighted Stories link to additional support resources. This one, for instance, links to an FAQ page.
Source: @LushCosmetics on Instagram
With customers unable to try on frames in a store, Bollé Brands created a social customer support experience on Instagram.
Potential customers can see what frames look like on their face using Instagram’s augmented reality filters. They can also get a sense of what it’s like to look through the product’s polarized lenses.
Source: @bolle_eyewear on Instagram
For ski season, they’ve created a new AR filter that allows users to virtually try ski goggles. These social customer support experiences replace interactions that would normally happen in-store.
Sparkcentral by Hootsuite helps manage incoming social media customer support queries through:
You can manage all these conversations through automated message distribution. This integrates with existing ticket distribution functions in your customer service contact center. It works with CRM systems like Zendesk, Microsoft Dynamics, and Salesforce.
Sparkcentral uses AI-powered chatbots to address simple support queries. Live agents can step in when needed. This division of labor between humans and bots increases productivity and customer satisfaction.
Hootsuite can help you with social media customer service in 4 key ways.
Use boards and streams in Hootsuite to monitor multiple networks for conversations around your brand. Then, you can quickly respond to support requests, even when you’re not tagged. Here’s how to do it:
Use the Hootsuite Content Library to store, organize, and share pre-approved social customer support content. This helps improve response times while keeping things accurate and consistent.
Assign incoming support requests directly to customer service team members. This makes sure nothing falls between the cracks. It’s a great way to connect customer support team members with messages that come in without tagging your customer support handle.
Hootsuite Analytics lets you measure and share the impact of your social customer support efforts. This lets you see what’s working and improve on what’s not.
You’ll see how long it takes your team to respond to and resolve incoming Tweets, Facebook comments, and private messages on Twitter or Facebook.
The Zendesk app for Hootsuite allows you to create tickets in Zendesk from social messages on Twitter and Facebook. You can route tickets to other team members and respond directly to social posts from Zendesk.
You can access ticket details such as:
You can add internal notes and update and edit tickets directly from your Hootsuite dashboard.
With the Freshdesk Hootsuite app, you can convert social conversations into support tickets. You can then manage those tickets as they work their way to resolution.
You can add notes to the ticket within the Hootsuite dashboard. Then you can search and filter tickets based on name, date created, keywords, and ticket number.
Automat uses conversational artificial intelligence to create intelligent bots for social direct messaging.
Automat bots understand free-form text and can hand a conversation off to a human customer support agent when needed.
ClickDesk is a live chat app you can use to connect with people reaching out to your brand on Twitter. Using a private interface, customer service agents can resolve customer support issues in real time.
Reply.ai is a chatbot solution for Facebook Messenger. It uses conversational artificial intelligence to interact with customers in multiple languages. When human help is needed, your team will be notified through Hootsuite Inbox.
SnapEngage is a tool that allows you to send URLs within Twitter to initiate a live chat session. Enabling Tweet-to-chat can increase customer satisfaction and reduce support email volume.
Save time building an efficient customer support system on social media with Hootsuite. Respond to questions and complaints, create tickets from social conversations, and work with chatbots all from one dashboard. Try it free today.
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